Inspiration & Anticipation

To be an artist is not as simple as it might seem, for making art is a complex process that requires the artist to have large quantities of sensitivity, awareness, empathy, insight, vision, imagination, courage, determination, stamina, endurance, perseverance, more courage, good humour and an ability to deal with rejection and criticism.
When viewing the end product in a casual stroll around a gallery, the uninitiated viewer can be forgiven for not recognizing the many hours of work that go into the making of each piece, not to mention the struggle, the blood, sweat and tears that are invariably a part of the art making process. In the words of Sean McNiff “Creation… demands that we take the plunge into new territory without knowing what will appear.”
However, the execution of the art is just one part of the equation, and is often the easiest part of the process. It’s finding the inspiration that can prove to be more challenging.
So what is inspiration, exactly? That magical, slippery word that ducks and dives in and out of sight, often arising unexpectedly and disappearing just as fast. It’s that moment when a good idea hits you like the proverbial light bulb moment, leaving you rearing to get going before the idea fades. However, it can also be a quiet awareness that something in your consciousness has shifted and that you are looking at an idea that slipped in so silently, you are not quite sure where it came from. In my experience, I have found that those are the best ideas, the ones that come in a whisper, and beckon you to take note. If you’re not quiet, centred and alert, those magical moments, those gifts from who knows where, can disappear into the fog, or not be seen at all.
Perhaps the worst thing for an artist is the thought that one’s ideas might dry up, that you may have just done your last painting, or that you’ve lost your spark. I find that I have to create an environment around me that is supportive of my art, and that means surrounding myself with positive, interesting people as well as an inspiring physical space. I also need to get out, for as wonderful as this little town is, I occasionally need to see what lies over the edge of the bowl. I need to experience new sights and sounds and to break my daily routine. This sharpens the awareness and allows new ideas to flow.

The view from my studio across the town

The view from my studio across the town

So it is with this in mind that I have made plans to travel to Botswana and Limpopo with a creative, kindred soul. It’s a pilgrimage of sorts and whilst we travel the dusty roads in the midsummer heat, attending a traditional wedding, visiting creative arts centres, exploring ancient ruins, heritage sites, and caves for Bushman paintings, I am hoping that in the breeze, I will catch the whisper of some new ideas. One can never be certain if or when the Muse will appear, but I will be ready, with camera and notebook in hand for the possibility of it’s appearance.

To heighten my sense of anticipation, my brother, Anthony, otherwise known as Stidy, has sent me some pictures of the area into which I will be venturing.

The confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers

The confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers

Mapungubwe, Limpopo, South Africa

Mapungubwe, Limpopo, South Africa

The interesting thing is that it’s the anticipation of the journey that is really getting my heart racing and so in a way the journey has already begun. Like starting a new artwork, I face the blank canvas with a vision of where I want the work to go. It is lightly sketched in and I can see it in my mind’s eye, but will the end product look like I imagine? Unlikely, for if I hold the reins lightly, it will take me to places I hadn’t envisioned and show me things I didn’t know were there.

Sal on the road web

On the road…

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Categories: Inspiration | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “Inspiration & Anticipation

  1. Bev Slater

    Thank you Sally for sharing and may your travels be blessed in every way! Wish I could journey with you!! Perhaps vicariously through your pinboard?

  2. Great column, Sal. and one that perfectly reflects my own feelings about the creative process. As a professional cartoonist I tend to get a wee bit irritated when people say to me: “So – is that all you do?”, as if my whole job is a complete breeze and doesn’t require much thought. I don’t think they have the vaguest idea how much blood I sweat trying to keep coming up with a fresh, topical and – most important of all – funny idea every day (it’s the idea rather than the execution that is always the most difficult bit)
    All the best for your Big Adventure and may you come back with your soul replenished…

    • Thanks for your great response, Ant! The pressure is even greater for you because you have to come up with something original and clever every day, no matter how you might be feeling. I really appreciate all your wisdom and support and with your humility and sense of humour, am not surprised you are such a great cartoonist! Thanks for the good wishes. I wish you were coming with me.

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